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The upcoming Child Tax Credit that passed as part of the American Rescue Plan has been in the news lately. For many of the families that work with Family Promise, and many low to moderate income families nationwide, tax credits make a big impact on their lives. Families that are housed and participating in our Stabilization programs typically use those funds to purchase a vehicle or repair their family car, pay down past debts, or start or build a rainy-day fund.

I am excitedly anticipating the good that will accompany this tax credit for Heidi’s family. She and her five children are homeless after fleeing domestic violence. Currently, Heidi’s only income is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), but in July, with the upcoming credit, she will receive an additional $1,300 per month. This money will help the family afford some of those things that many of us take for granted every day: food, clothing, and a safe place to stay.


Here is how it breaks down for families with children:

Families qualify if:

· The children in the household are ages 0-17

· Single parent annual income is under $75,000

OR

· Married parent annual income is under $150,000


The expanded Child Tax Credit increases the maximum credit a family can receive to $3,000 per child, per year, for children 6-17 and $3,600 per child, per year for children under 6. The overall credit is divided into monthly payments. Families can expect $250 per month for each child between 6 and 17 and $300 per month for each child under 6. In 2021, families will receive half the annual amount as a pre-payment in monthly installments and the other half when they file taxes in early 2022.


The Child Tax Credit does not count as income for federally-funded benefits, including SNAP or TANF, so it will not reduce other benefits that many low-income families rely on.


It is thought this upcoming tax credit will cut the child poverty rate in half. It’s amazing news for many, but for Heidi’s family, it will provide some of the much needed funds to bring some stability to their lives.

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  • T.J. Putman

It’s hard to believe that less than two weeks ago I was playing basketball outside with my two nephews. It seems like the year 2020 is teaching us that any situation can transform in an instant.

The Wildfires brought devastation to so many of us, and I’m thankful that the only thing my family lost is some park time. We don’t have official numbers yet, but many of our neighbors in Marion County lost so much more—they lost their homes.

A disaster like the wildfires takes our housing crisis response to a new level. Right now, hotels in our area are at capacity as fire refugees sort out their next steps. Salem First Presbyterian Church, The State Fairgrounds, and United Way have all stepped in to provide emergency relief to people who have been driven out of—or who have permanently lost—their homes. At Family Promise, we’re taking a deep breath in the smoke-filled air to assess how we should respond. To make sense of this, we need to focus our response, like many organizations did before us, on the ‘three R’s’ of disaster management: relief, recovery, rebuild.

Relief - The first and most urgent step in disaster response is the immediate provision of community needs. We’re here right now, and our community is meeting the relief need by providing shelter and food.

If you want to help, check with United Way and their needs list. If you have relationships with other organizations, connect with them to see what they can offer in terms of support. Put calls out to others who might be able to help with needed donations. The fires are devastating, but it’s encouraging to see how our community responds when people need it most.

Recovery - For many families impacted by the fires, homeowner’s insurance and FEMA will be able to jump in and help with extended motel costs, cleanup, and funding for rebuilding. For many renters and low-income families, that isn’t the case.

For the past couple years, Family Promise has been able to provide one-time emergency rental assistance for families who needed a little help. We’re going to continue this program, and if a family impacted by the fire needs deposit or rent assistance, we should be able to help.

Rebuild - Restoring communities like Detroit, Gates, Mill City, Stayton and Silverton to their previous strength is the longest step on a long post-disaster road. Since the Red Cross typically provides short-term assistance, our role at Family Promise in rebuilding is critical. We’re seeking funding and asking people like you to help. We need resources to restore housing for our lower income neighbors. For some this will start with emergency shelter, and it will take time to rebuild rental housing. For others, it will take a few months of rental assistance to stabilize their situation.

COVID-19 will complicate our community’s recovery and rebuilding efforts, but we can do it. Over 10,000 of our neighbors have been positively impacted by the volunteers and congregations of Family Promise. We are uniquely equipped to face the housing challenges that lie ahead. Won’t you join us and make sure that every child who lost their home can once more sleep with a roof over their head?

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  • T.J. Putman

As Family Promise looks at our role in advocacy around the COVID-19 pandemic, we consistently see the intersection between homelessness, education and child care. The fact is, families have particularly struggled to make ends meet while caring for their families. Over and over I see that

. (We changed names for privacy.)

Take Jennifer, after her home situation became dangerous, she needed to quickly leave with her son Aiden. Prior to the pandemic, this would have been hard enough, but the childcare center in Salem where Jennifer used to place Aiden while she worked is no longer able to care for him. As a result, she has had to balance her conflicting housing, work, and childcare priorities alone. It couldn’t be done. Sadly, Jennifer lost her job.

Jennifer’s story is not unique. Even before 2020, Oregon had a reputation for having poor access to child care where long wait-lists and high demand contributed to expensive services and, sometimes, a challenging lack of availability. Now, childcare centers must limit how many children they manage at once while staff must acquire new expertise on the fly. The costs of gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer eat into the bottom line of these businesses, but most can’t afford to hire additional workers while making it affordable for families.

This is why childcare is becoming more expensive and difficult to find than ever before. Even families who have been on waiting lists for months are being turned away and priced out. For a two-parent, two-income, housed family, this alone can present an insurmountable obstacle to financial stability.

Affordable childcare is one reason that parents, especially mothers, are currently dropping out of the workplace to take care of their children. A parent’s departure from the workforce is not just a temporary hit to a family’s income. Even when it is possible to return to a competitive career after an absence, there is no way to make up the opportunity cost of raises, promotions, experience gathered, and reputation earned. The effect on a family already grappling with homelessness can be profound.

The majority of single-parent families are also headed by women, meaning that many such families rely on childcare both for their income and to ensure that their own children are safe during the workday. When there’s no home to keep the children in, childcare becomes even more critical. The salaries for these jobs have never been high, but they are critical resources in more ways than one. For many families, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is secondary to the immediate danger to their livelihood that inadequate child care represents.

Economic recovery from COVID-19 must include access to child care. That much is clear from the tragedies that we see each day at Family Promise. However, the child care system in Oregon was broken already. No system that crumbles under pressure is strong enough to assist the most vulnerable among us. Those of us who can empower better child care have a responsibility to do so to the greatest extent of our abilities. To do any less is to ensure that families with housing instability continue to struggle up the mountain of economic stability.

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